After a year of a disastrous labor lockout, the Minnesota Orchestra seems to be caught in a ruinous death spiral. The musicians in the orchestra, which had won respect as on of the best in the nation, were asked to take a big pay cut as the economy hit donations and subsidies that paid the bills. They refused. A year of performances have been lost, and the conductor who brought the orchestra to national heights, Osmo Vnsk, has resigned in frustration.
It is a sad situation. Music lovers and supporters of the arts are heartsick. Gov. Mark Dayton even brought in super-mediator George Mitchell to try to work out an agreement. Former Gov. Arne Carlson has blogged about the situation, wondering where our priorities lie if we can fund a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, but let the Minnesota Orchestra implode.
Where are our priorities? That's easy to gauge. How many TV sets in the state are tuned in to the Vikings on a Sunday afternoon? How many people tune in to broadcasts of Minnesota Orchestra concerts? How many people stand around the office water cooler on Monday talking about Adrian Peterson's big run yesterday? How many talk about how the violin section handled the third movement of that Beethoven symphony last night?
There are state funds devoted to the arts. The state's Legacy Amendment dedicates a portion of its funding to the arts in the state, but there are many places for that money to go. We'd guess the Minnesota Orchestra already gets a good share of that.
There are many foundations and organizations that provide grants and funding for the arts, but are they willing to give to an organization that is struggling the way the Minnesota Orchestra is struggling?
The orchestra, management and labor together need to settle its business if it hopes to gain the financial support it needs. We hope they can do it before they have to start rebuilding from scratch.